The Anglican offensive
Miles Smith | A bishop’s battle cry summons all evangelical Christians to have courage
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Beginning in the first decade of the 21st century, Anglicans worldwide took definitive steps to separate themselves from mainline and state churches that had rejected Biblical teachings regarding salvation and the natural order. In the United States, that took the form of orthodox bishops and churches leaving the Episcopal Church and forming the Anglican Church in North America. The ACNA’s formation stemmed from the Episcopal Church’s infidelity to Scripture. Faithfulness to the Word of God made fighting the so-called culture war an inevitability for Bible-believing Anglicans. Last weekend, the Anglican Diocese of the Living Word, which has Reformed and evangelical commitments, held its annual meeting and mission conference near Philadelphia.
The diocese is named after its commitment to the Word of God, and its bishop is Julian Dobbs. (In the interest of full disclosure, he is my bishop, and I was a voting delegate at the meeting.) Like most ACNA bishops, Dobbs eschews partisan politics. But he is also a Christian committed to the Word of God, and evangelicals like Dobbs who are committed to Biblical teachings on marriage, sex, and the natural order understand they must speak loudly and firmly on Biblical truths. Dobbs’ unambiguous pastoral address last Friday denounced modern innovation on sex and gender and rebuked affirmation or even passive accommodation with the culture of our day.
Those committed to the so-called winsomeness that has defined intellectual evangelical cultural and political engagement often desire to assuage Christian messaging to make it more palatable to the culture. But Bishop Dobbs chose to be grave, unambiguous, and unaccommodating. There was, he noted, an actual spiritual war taking place. Western Christianity’s tendency to accommodate unbiblical beliefs within churches has often been seen as a potential tool for evangelism. Fears of being anything less than winsome or nice have led Western churches, including evangelical churches, to soft-pedal what the Bible declares to be true about gender, sexuality, and the natural order. Speaking with anything less than clarity has not filled the church with converts but instead has led to discord and eventually unbiblical teaching taking over religious institutions. For example, some supposedly evangelical college professors falsely claim that evangelicals have only recently viewed abortion as morally wrong. And in the Roman Catholic Church, German bishops celebrate homosexuality in the Mass. The rot is everywhere, and its root is spiritual. Abortion and transgenderism are not products of economic policy or evangelical purity culture. They are, as Dobbs and others have noted, the product of sin and Satan’s war against Christ and His church.
Like Bishop Dobbs, evangelicals must understand that the ultimate cause of the larger conflict that Christianity faces in the West is spiritual and accommodation in the name of winsomeness is not merely bad politics but leads to the destruction of God’s people. Many Anglicans, including Dobbs, have already walked the path that evangelicals now find themselves traveling. In the name of niceness, historical Biblical teaching was disregarded or deemphasized in the Episcopal Church. The result was not kinder, gentler churches that welcomed sinners but an aggressively antagonistic liberal church that sought to impose its will on anyone who disagreed with it. Dobbs noted that he, prominent Episcopal Bishop William Love, and noted evangelical theologian J.I. Packer had all been denounced by other Anglicans who did not believe in the authority of Scripture. These faithful men did not seek the culture war. The culture war came to them in the form of a rotting and heretical religion.
Evangelicals might find quietism the easier road to take in such trying times, but that option is not tenable in an era of aggressive liberalism. Western churches must be courageous, clearly proclaim the gospel, and discern unbiblical teaching in their ranks. Bishop Dobbs told delegates last week that the evangelical church must be courageous and watchful, and its leaders must act like men. Rapid social changes in our time, including the transgender agenda and the battle against abortion, require the church to act courageously. “Courage is not something that regularly appears in the conversation and discipline of many North America Christians,” Bishop Dobbs noted. Being a Christian in North America, he said, had not always required “a whole lot of courage.” As pressure on evangelicals to punt Biblical teaching increases, we must heed admonitions to “ready ourselves to act, where necessary, with courage.”
Bishop Dobbs’ address was not a red meat sermon given to a politicized fundamentalist church, nor was it Christian nationalism. It was a grave pastoral address given to a diocese populated mainly by theologically conservative evangelicals and ex-mainliners. The latter experienced firsthand the consequences of doctrinal accommodation and innovation perpetrated in the name of relevance and the pursuit of popularity. Evangelicals who think they might be able to win the culture by anything less than Biblical truth are mistaken. Confrontation is inevitable. As Dobbs noted, we are never winsome enough or clever enough in our own capacities to fight the enemies of Christ. Only faithfulness to His living Word can do that.
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